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Hold The Eggs

When hot breakfast turns cold, students protest cutbacks

In the fall of 1977, the most important meal of the day became the most newsworthy meal of the year, as then-Dean of the College John B. Fox Jr. ’59 limited the serving of hot breakfasts to four of the College’s 12 Houses in an attempt to cut board costs. The move sparked student protest and, though a revelation in the spring of 1978 of a Food Services budget surplus rendered the point moot, the hot breakfast controversy exposed undergraduate concerns over how well their student representatives acted in protecting their interests and how receptive administrators were to their opinions.

In the spring of 1977, then-Director of Food Services Frank J. Weissbecker persuaded administrators that a proposal to open the Freshman Union to serve weekend meals starting the following fall—part of Fox’s plan to move all first-year students to the Yard—would cost an estimated $160,000. He proposed offsetting the expenditure by limiting hot breakfast service to four Houses: Leverett, Quincy, Kirkland and Currier. The remaining eight Houses would offer only cold, continental-syle breakfasts.

According to Fox, the late Weissbecker had known that the Fox Plan, under which all first-years were moved to the Yard, would entail the opening of Union dining halls but did not object to the expense until after the changes were adopted. He says the late disclosure made this “roadblock” even more agitating.

“It was because of the cost of reopening the Union that [Weissbecker] felt compelled to reduce breakfast,” Fox says. “At the time he persuaded us that the Fox Plan was an unbearable burden [for dining operations].”

Some Like It Hot

Soon after it was announced in the spring of 1977, the new breakfast plan encountered stiff student resistance. Mather and Dunster House residents banded together to form the “Eggshell Alliance” to protest the elimination of their hot morning meals.

One morning that spring, roughly 50 alliance demonstrators gathered at the Mather and Dunster House dining halls, chanting “we want it hot.” They then blew whistles and clashed cymbals as they marched toward University Hall and the old Union dining hall in protest of Fox’s decision.

The previous winter, the Committee on House and Undergraduate Life (CHUL) had attempted to obtain a detailed budget from Food Services—a document that some say would have helped explain the necessity of a the limited breakfast plan.

“We literally begged Weissbecker,” Joseph F. Savage Jr. ’78 told The Crimson in October 1977. “But he said he can’t make up an accurate budget letter. His reason is that he’s understaffed and can’t work up a reasonable budget. I think that’s baloney.”

Fox now says that he had his own reservations about the breakfast plan but that he kept these concerns to himself because he didn’t feel he had any grounds on which to argue against it.

“Personally, I was in no position to argue with him. I didn’t have access to the numbers,” he says.

According to Fox, Weissbecker was the one who was adamant about the implementation of the breakfast plan.

Still, Fox bared the brunt of student anger at the restrictions.

In September, after the limited breakfast plan was implemented, a new group called Student Lobby replaced the Eggshell Alliance as the voice of protest over the cutbacks.

Student Lobby cited long lines and overcrowding at the four Houses with hot breakfasts as reasons to re-evaluate the limited breakfast plan. To protest the changes, they drafted a petition and even went so far as to organize a two-morning “eat-in,” in which they planned to descend en masse upon the “hot” Houses. But while the petition boasted 900 signatures, the eat-in drew only a modest turnout.

CHUL Out